Archive for October 2013

Forget Sysiphus…

I am now Heracles and my editor is Eurytheus.

I am given a task of near insurmountable scope. Mighty are my labors; one might say heroic. I complete the task: I return with my lion’s pelt, or herd of mares, or magic hind, with an eager countenance for my Eurytheus, ready for praise or reward or at least a good night’s sleep.

Rather, I am handed a new task of epic proportions.

Unlike Eurytheus, you see, my editor doesn’t run and hide whenever I return from my adventure with another prize. She comes running out to meet me, eyes ablaze, teeth bared, hands curled into claws, and tells me to get my ass back on the road and get that next prize. I go skulking back down the highway, looking for that magical thing that will finally gain me hero status.

Somewhere in the depths of my addled mind, I am dimly aware that she’s just trying to make me a better writer, to get me to think about things like plot arcs and character development and depth. “It’ll make your story interesting,” she says. “People will want to read it.”

She wants me to actually work at this writing thing!

OK, I’ll work at it. I’ll work at it until my fingers bleed and my eyes shrivel and drop from my skull, and my brain is a mass of lesions, I’ll work at it.

First thing I had to do was clean out the Augean stables. Rather than thirty years of dung, however, I had two hundred pages worth. I think I accomplished most of that, but the cleaning has laid bare structural issues, all of which need to be addressed. And, like the many-headed hydra, as soon as one issue is met and defeated, two others spring up in their place.

Still, I’m willing to do the work. I have a story to tell, it needs to be told, and it needs to be told well. Otherwise, why bother?

The blood is the… what?

I had high hopes for NBC’s remake of Dracula. It’s an ambitious project: rehash a story that’s been rehashed to distraction, and make it fresh and interesting. And there are many things in their version that are very intriguing. But, after watching the premier episode, I was left strangely bereft and, err, thirsting for something more substantial.

There were a number of character departures from Bram Stoker’s original story, some of which may prove integral to the new version, some of which were jarring. I’m hoping the jarring ones get smoothed out in future episodes.

Mina Murray is a medical student; her professor is Van Helsing. Jonathan Harker is a journalist. Lucy Westenra is still an existentialist, thank goodness, as I can’t envision her in any other role. Those are OK, in my mind. Mina, in the novel, was an intelligent woman who longed for a bigger role in society but was limited by the social climes in those days. Jonathan kept a detailed diary, so a journalist is not a huge stretch for him.

Then there’s Dracula and his minion, R.M. Renfield.

First, let me say I was excited that Jonathan Rhys Meyers was cast in the title role. The character of Dracula is, after all, a dark one. Mr. Meyers is dark: dark hair, dark eyes, dark facial expression and, one imagines, dark soul. He was gloriously egotistical and vicious in his role as Henry VIII in “The Tutors”. (I’ll set aside the wildly historical inaccuracies of that series for a moment.) I can see him filling the role of a vicious, predatory creature such as Dracula with ease. And he did. For the most part.

His accents were what bothered me. Dracula is from Romania, for Pete’s sake, where they chew on their words before letting them trickle out of their mouths. Dracula has an English accent and, as Alexander Greyson, a really awful American accent. Jarring.

Then there’s Renfield. This R.M. Renfield is an enormous African American, fully self-possessed, and often openly critical of Dracula’s actions. Perhaps they had their reasons, but it’s too much of a departure, in my humble opinion, from the cringing, subservient Renfield one expects. Again, jarring. Maybe I’ll get used to it. We’ll see.

There was a small, seemingly insignificant scene, that bothered me. Renfield informs Harker that “Greyson” requests an interview, scheduled at 4:30 the following evening. Now, it’s not clear what time of the year the story takes place, but I’m fairly certain that the sun never sets before 4:30 PM in London. Why would Dracula invite someone into his home before sunset when the first thing that person does, given the gloom of the parlor he’s in compels him to open the shutters? And in streams the glorious sun, which gives “Greyson” pause when he enters and greets Harker. Of course, Harker holds out his hand to shake, right in the path of that poisonous stream of sunlight. It not only caused Dracula pain, it caused considerable pain in this viewer as well.

So, enough bitching. There were some very lovely scenes; one in particular stands out in my mind. “Greyson” is invited to opening night at the opera by Lady Jayne, who requests he discretely join her in her private box. He has his own box at the opera, though, but he’s intrigued by her invitation. So, he generously offers to lend his box to none other than Jonathan and Mina for the evening. Is this so that he can glare across the opera hall at the pair while he munches on Lady Jayne? Maybe so, but it was a nice bit of glaring and munching. He’s pushing all Lady Jayne’s buttons, apparently, so much so that she bites her lip hard enough to draw blood. I loved that very sweet, very short scene where Dracula gently licks the blood from her lips while uttering the word “unquenchable”. Ooo… delicious.

I will continue to watch the series, of course. How can I not? But I truly hope the kinks are ironed out and some of the choices the creators made will not prove its undoing.

 

Shaving the Cat

(No animals were harmed in the writing of this blog.)

I’m trying to find a metaphor for the epiphany I had just now.

I had been idly chatting with RJ Blain, my editor, about character development. She was describing the character she’s developing and the complications that were in store for her. As she went on in detail about how she was going to torture this poor creature, I was suddenly struck with a deep sense of anguish and shame.

My second book was rapidly evolving into a cloyingly sweet, Twilight-flavored bit of fluff.

Gah!

I took a step back and stared. Sure enough, life was coming along too easily for my main characters. Conflicts were being resolved, almost in the same paragraph. Events and actions that should have evoked intense emotional and physical reaction were waved off and allowed to drift away like a fart in the midst of polite society.

So, I took a deep breath and made a difficult decision. I’m going to have to scrap almost the whole thing and start over.

Humans find the suffering of others interesting. My characters weren’t interesting because they weren’t really suffering the consequences of their decisions. Yeah, they were making decisions — life-changing decisions — without anything in their lives really changing. Back to the drawing board: time to make them suffer.

Meanwhile, in a fit of insanity, I let RJ Blain get her claws into my website.

As for the metaphor…? Perhaps shaving the cat is a good one. I have two domestic long-haired cats. After a while, their fur gets matted and, if I don’t pay attention, it gets so bad that shaving is the only option. Pin the cat down, shave off the fluff. Once that painful process is done, we can start letting a nice new healthy coat grow.

OK, enough procrastination. Time to shave the cat…

 

From concept to published ebook in 188 days!

InvasionFBad

Sometime in March 2013, a fellow named Charles Barouch posted to Google+ with an idea. He wanted to create an anthology, and the stories within that anthology would be centered around one word: “invasion”.

Now, you throw that word into a roomful of writers and it’s like tossing a handful of Japanese beetles into a chicken pen. We jumped on it, scrambled for position, and settled into a line-up of fifteen immensely talented storytellers (myself included, if I am allowed to brag a bit here), two enormously creative artists, and two passionate editors.

At first glance, you’d think book publishing by committee is a Really Bad Idea. But, in my opinion, when you have a group of people who are this dedicated to the business of crafting a quality product, you simply cannot go wrong. It’s a tribute to the power of social media in this age of technology. And, it’s a testimonial to the versatility of Google+ communities. Charles made good use of them to keep communication flowing.

Now, six months after Charles’ first thoughtful post, we have a finished book-full of wonderfully entertaining stories, complete with amazing artwork! I’m so proud to be part of this talented group of people!
Available at these fine stores:
Amazon.com (Kindle)
Barnes and Noble (Nook)